LOCATION: Bolivia; Peru; Chile
POPULATION: About 2 million (Bolivia); 500,000 (Peru); 20,000 (Chile)
LANGUAGE: Aymara; Spanish
RELIGION: Roman Catholicism combined with indigenous beliefs; Seventh Day Adventist
The Aymara have existed for more than 2000 years and are considered more than an ethnic group. They constitute a linguistic unity among several ethnic groups, such as the Lupaca, Pacaje, Canchi, Uru, etc. They are found in the altiplano—a vast windy plateau in the central Andes—and in smaller numbers in the northern regions of Chile and Argentina. Because of the harshness of the region commonly inhabited by the Aymara people, they have been forced to develop sophisticated techniques that have allowed them to survive and become one of the most skillful agriculturists and herders in America.
The Aymara appeared in the altiplano after the decline of the Tiahuanaco civilization (1580 BC–AD 1172), probably having migrated from the southern part of the continent. Before they were conquered by the Incas, the Aymara population was widely spread in South America, where the most important regions were Colla and the Lupaca. After resisting more than 100 years of Incas attacks, the Aymara finally succumbed to their rule in the late 15th century. Since then, the Aymara have experienced three different periods of acculturation, first under the Incas, then under the Spaniards, and finally during the course of modernization.
The Aymara later joined forces with the Incas to fight and subdue other native tribes. While the Aymara retained their own language and many of their customs, the influence of the Incas on their religious and social traditions was pronounced. It is sometimes difficult for anthropologists today to determine whether a practice or custom has Inca or Aymara origins.
The Aymara faced great hardships under Spanish colonial rule. In 1570, the Viceroy decreed forced labor in the rich silver mines on the altiplano. Potosi was once the site of the richest silver mine in the world. Millions of Aymara laborers perished in the wretched conditions in the mines. As in the case of many other Amerindian groups, the Spanish Conquest had severe consequences over the indigenous population because of the spread of new and unknown European diseases and colonial exploitation, which eventually led to the decline in aborigine population.
Nowadays, Bolivia has the highest proportion of indigenous peoples of any country in South America, and not surprisingly, it is the poorest country on the continent. The Aymara have an estimate population of about three million in the early 21st century.
LOCATION AND HOMELAND
The Aymara live on high-altitude plains in the Bolivian Andes, on the Lake Titicaca plateau near the border with Peru. The altiplano is at an elevation of 3,000 m to 3,700 m (10,000–12,000 ft) above sea level, where weather conditions are cold and harsh, making agriculture difficult. In such conditions, Aymara grew crops that were suitable for the Andean climate, such as coca, and breed alpaca and llama. An ethnic group closely related to the Aymara live among the Uru islands on Lake Titicaca. These communities live not on land but on islands that are made of floating reeds.
An estimated 2 million Aymara live in Bolivia, with 500,000 residing in Peru, and about 20,000 in Chile. It should be emphasized that the Aymara are not confined to a defined territory in the Andes. After almost five centuries of hybridization of the region, many live in the cities, participate fully in Western culture, go to urban schools (sometimes private ones), play a variety of sports (basketball, tennis, soccer, volleyball, cycling), and dress in Western-style clothes. Most of the ethnic and cultural characteristics pointed out here refer to isolated villages and to the rural regions where perhaps half of the Aymara live.
The Aymara language, originally called jaqi aru (the language of the people) is still the dominant language in the Bolivian Andes and in the southeastern parts of Peru. Aymara is an amazingly versatile language in which—through suffixes—a word can be concrete or abstract, noun or verb, and through which nuances can be incorporated into the language, something unknown to many modern languages. In the rural areas one finds that the Aymara language is predominant, while in the urban areas the Aymara are bilingual in Spanish and Aymara, and even trilingual in Spanish, Quechua, and Aymara in regions where Inca rule was prominent. The Aymara language is the second-most-prevalent indigenous language in the Americas, second only to the Quechua spoken by descendants of the Incas. Since colonial times, most Aymara Indians have Christian first names but preserve their Aymara last names, for example, Francisco Mamani ("falcon" in Aymara). Given the large numbers of Aymara-speaking people in Bolivia, there are several radio stations and a couple of television channels that transmit only in Aymara.
The Aymara share with other ethnic groups some of the Pan-Andean myths of origin. In one of them, the god Tunupa is a creator of the universe, but he is also the one that taught the people all his customs: how to develop agriculture, the songs they sang, how to weave, the languages each group had to speak, and the precepts to lead a moral life. Aymara mythology abounds in myths of origin, such as the origin of the wind, of hail, of mountains, and of lakes.
The religious practices of most Amerindian groups are a unique fusion between their traditional, indigenous practices and the religion imposed by the colonizers. The Aymara are no exception. The Aymara, however, have had two cultures imposed on them: first by the Incas and later by the Spanish. The Incas permitted the Aymara to maintain their language and all their customs, yet many of the religious practices of the Inca religion were adopted by the Aymara. Similarly, the Incas adopted the idols of the groups they vanquished and kept them in their temples. The similarity of these beliefs, which revered natural forces, such as the sun, the moon, and thunder, made the new religion easy to assimilate.
They suppressed native religious institutions but effected only a superficial conversion to Christianity. Today, the Aymara maintain their beliefs in a multispirit world, have many categories of magicians, diviners, medicine men, and witches, but are Christian in their beliefs about the afterworld. Independence and economic development brought changes in social organization and a decline in traditional arts and crafts.
Spanish conquerors prohibited native religious institutions. Catholicism was introduced during the colonial period and has been adopted by the Aymara. For example, the Aymara will attend Mass and celebrate baptisms, followed the Catholic calendar of important Christian events but the content of their many religious festivals, however, bears evidence of their traditional beliefs. The Aymara regularly make offerings to Mother Earth, in order to assure a productive harvest or to cure illnesses. The Aymara believe in the power of spirits that reside in mountains, in the sky, or in natural forces, such as lightning. The most potent and sacred of their gods is Pachamama, the Earth Goddess who has the power to make the soil fertile and ensure a good crop. Today, Aymara people maintain their beliefs expressed in the existence of many categories of magicians, diviners, medicine men, and witches.
Most recently, the Seventh-Day Adventists have made great inroads in Aymara communities, and the religion is attracting an increasing number of followers.
The Aymara, being mostly Bolivian, celebrate the same holidays as everybody else in the country: the civic holidays, such as Independence Day, and the religious ones, such as Christmas and Easter. One particular holiday is Dia del Indio, on August 2, which commemorates their cultural heritage. The Aymara celebrate many holidays throughout the year. In every town, they celebrate the day of their patron saint on the liturgical Catholic calendar. These festivals last up to seven days and are celebrated with music, traditional dancing, and abundant consumption of alcohol. For each fiesta, a host is found. This person, known as the preste, is responsible for providing the food and drink for the community. To be a preste is an honor that Aymara seek, and they save for years in order to afford the expense.
The Aymara also celebrate Carnival. Carnival is a festival marking the beginning of Lent that is widely celebrated throughout South America. Dancing to drums and flutes accompanies a week-long celebration. Also important is the festival Alacistas, which features the God of Good Luck. Most households will have a ceramic figure of the Good Luck spirit, known as Ekeko. Purported to bring prosperity and grant wishes, the Ekeko doll is a round, plump figure, carrying miniature replicas of household goods, such as cooking utensils, bags of food, and money.
RITES OF PASSAGE
An Aymara child is gradually introduced to the social and cultural traditions of the community. Key stages in the development of a child are marked by traditions and rites of passage. A significant event in the life of an Aymara child is the first hair cut, known as rutucha. A baby's hair is allowed to grow until the child is able to walk and talk. At approximately two years old, when it is unlikely that he or she will succumb to childhood diseases that are prevalent in the Andes, the head is shaved bare.
For the Aymara culture, the basic social unit is the extended family conformed basically by wife, sons, brothers, and unmarried daughters. However, this social organization had been affected by the expansion of cities and modern life resulting in migrations motivated by the hope of finding better salaries for them and their families in urban settlements.
A dominant feature of the Aymara culture is reciprocity and the social obligation to help other members of the community. The exchange of labor and mutual aid play an essential role within an ayllu, or community. Such exchanges are invoked at times when substantial amounts of labor are required that a single family cannot provide. An Aymara peasant might ask for help from a neighbor to build a house, dig an irrigation ditch, or harvest a field. In return, he or she is expected to reciprocate by donating the same number of days' labor to the neighbor.
Living conditions of the Aymara depend mainly on where they live and how much they have been integrated to the Western style of life. To generalize about their living conditions would be a gross mistake. Many Aymara that reside in cities live in modern houses or apartments. There are also large numbers of poor Aymara in the cities who have just one room. In rural areas, the construction of an Aymara house depends largely upon its location and the availability of materials. A typical Aymara house is a small oblong dwelling constructed of adobe, although near the lake reeds are the primary building material. Thatched roofs are made of reeds and grasses.
The high altitude makes life in the altiplano very difficult. The low level of oxygen in the air can leave one with soroche (altitude sickness), which causes headaches, fatigue, and nausea. Soroche is also potentially fatal. In order to adapt to life in the mountains, the Aymara have undergone clear physiological changes that enable them to cope in this environment. Most significantly, the Aymara and other mountain peoples have a greatly increased lung capacity relative to their body size. Expanded lung capacity enables them to increase their intake of air and, therefore, oxygen.
The use of coca leaves also ameliorates the effects of altitude sickness. Chewing coca leaves releases a mild alkaloid that combats fatigue and hunger. Coca leaves produce a mild medicinal effect and do not contain cocaine, which results only after major chemical processing of the leaves.
The central social unit of the Aymara is the extended family. Typically, a family will encompass parents, unmarried children, and grandparents in one house, or in a small cluster of houses. Large families are common, with many families having seven or eight children. Systems of reciprocity and mutual obligation are very strong within the extended family, and cousins, in-laws, and other relatives form a network of support and assistance. Relatives help with minding the children and harvesting, and they may provide loans in times of economic hardship.
There is a sharp division of labor within an Aymara household, but women's work is not necessarily considered inferior. Planting, in particular, is a task ascribed to women that is highly respected. Women in Aymara society also have inheritance rights. Property owned by females will be passed down from mother to daughter, ensuring that not all land and property goes to the sons, as it does in other cultures. This practice, however, has had some drawbacks, as parcels of land become so small through generations of inheritance divisions as to be agriculturally impractical.
Marriage is a long process that entails many steps, such as the inheritance feasts, a planting ritual, and the building of the house. Despite the lengthy marriage ritual, divorce is accepted and is relatively simple.
Clothing styles vary greatly among the Aymara. Men in the cities wear regular Western clothes, and women wear their traditional polleras (ample skirts) made of fine materials, such as velvet and brocade. They wear shawls that are embroidered, and bowler hats (some of which are made in Italy). In the altiplano, the story is different. The strong cold winds that blow on the altiplano require warm woolen clothing. Demonstrating the clear influence of the colonial Spanish, women wear long homespun skirts and sweaters. Layers of skirts are used to provide some protection against the cold. For festivals or important occasions, women will wear as many as five or six skirts on top of each other. Traditional weaving techniques dating back to pre-Inca times are used to produce brightly colored shawls, which are also used to strap children to their backs or carry loads of goods. For headwear, the women wear distinctive bowbin, or bowler hats. Aymara men in the altiplano wear long cotton trousers and woolen caps with ear flaps. In many regions, men also wear ponchos. Both sexes may wear sandals or shoes, but many go barefoot despite the cold.
In cities, the Aymara diet is varied with one distinctive characteristic: aji, a hot pepper used to season the dishes. In the countryside, potatoes and grains, such as quinoa, form the staple diet. Quinoa, which is becoming increasingly popular in health food stores in the United States, is a nutritious, high-protein grain that has been grown in the Andes for centuries. The extremes of temperature that exist in the high Andes make it possible for potatoes and other tubers to be naturally freeze-dried and preserved. The cold air at night will freeze the moisture from the potato, while the sun during the day will melt and evaporate it. After a week lying out in the elements, the potatoes are pounded. The result is chuño, small, rock-hard pieces of potato that can be stored for years. Lengthy soaking in water will rehydrate them and prepare them for cooking.
Meats are also freeze-dried. A traditional dish is olluco con charqui. Olluco is a small potato-like tuber, which is cooked with charqui, dried llama meat. Llamas are important for their wool and packing ability and are therefore consumed only rarely. Fish from Lake Titicaca or neighboring rivers is an important part of the diet in many communities.
Food is cooked in clay stoves into spicy stews or soups. Condiments include aji, other hot peppers, and peanut sauces. For festive occasions, guinea pig is eaten. Spicy guinea pig stew is the most desirable dish at a feast.
In Bolivia, primary school education is mandatory until the age of 14. However, as in other developing countries, children of subsistence peasants are less likely than their urban counterparts to complete their schooling. Most rural families rely on children to conduct many essential household chores. Children often have the responsibility of tending to a herd or taking care of younger siblings. Male children are more likely to complete school than are girls, who have greater household responsibilities, even at a very young age.
Despite this, Bolivian literacy rates are fairly high, estimated at 85% for males and 71% for females. Perhaps this is the result of the rural school program that was massively implemented after the agrarian reform of 1953. The state universities, being virtually free, educate many Aymara who achieve degrees in all the professions, including medicine, law, and engineering. There are also trade schools where Aymara electricians, carpenters, plumbers, and mechanics are trained.
The Aymara have a rich musical tradition. Although a clear Spanish influence can be discerned, the Aymara's primary musical influences date as far back as their pre-Inca ancestors. Percussion and flutes are featured prominently at festivals and celebrations. Panpipes (zampoñas) and the pututu horn, made out of a hollowed-out cow's horn, are traditional instruments that are still widely played. Homemade violins and drums are also common.
Indigenous dances have also been passed down through the generations. Each festival has its particular traditional dances. Many dances feature large, brightly painted masks and costumes. Many dances symbolize and parody the Spanish colonizers. The "old man dance," for example, features a bent-over Spanish aristocrat with a broad top hat. In this satirical dance, the dancer imitates the gestures and mannerisms of old Spanish gentlemen to comic effect.
The Aymara have a very rich and long oral tradition. During colonial times many of their songs, poems, and stories were compiled by missionaries or Ladino Indians (Indians that had learned how to write). In the 20th century, many ethnographers and linguists have also transcribed their texts. Aymara literature has recently undergone a renaissance. Now there are many Aymara who write down their stories and legends. Many of them are published in bilingual (Spanish-Aymara) editions.
Many Aymara are subsistence farmers in a harsh, high-altitude environment. The high altitude, cold nights, and poor soil greatly limit the types of crops that are able to be sown. The Aymara follow traditional patterns of agricultural production, often still relying on pre-Columbian terraces, and following a careful pattern of crop rotation. The most important crop is the potato, which originated in the Andes. Also important is corn, quinoa (a grain), and barley. Many families own land at different altitudes, which enables them to grow a diverse range of crops.
Tractors or even oxen teams are rare in the high Andes. Traditional agricultural implements, such as the taclla, a foot plow, are still widely used. While the men do the plowing and digging, the sacred task of planting is reserved exclusively for women, as only they have the power to give life. This is also out of deference to Pachamama, the Earth Goddess.
The Aymara are also herders, deriving both wool and meat from herds of llamas, alpacas, and sheep. A family may also supplement their grazing herd with a couple of cows, frogs, or chickens. Many communities are beginning to diversify economically and produce off-farm income. The growing tourist trade has increased the demand for the luxurious wool of the alpaca, and sweaters are often knitted for the tourist trade, generating much-needed cash income. Some Aymara also work as laborers in silver or tin mines. These mines are dangerous and can cause health problems. However, they offer a scarce opportunity for cash income.
Many Aymara have entered politics since the reforms of 1952. They have founded a political party, Katarista, and they have senators and representatives in the Bolivian congress.
Although there are no sports that are strictly Aymara, soccer is the Bolivian national sport and many Aymara participate.
ENTERTAINMENT AND RECREATION
With the proliferation of mass media, the Aymara now enjoy their own TV shows, both as spectators and as performers. A kind of soap opera in Aymara is transmitted on the Aymara channel. There are musical groups that have made recordings that are avidly consumed by many Aymara. Urban Aymara are frequent moviegoers. One of the preferred activities is to dance in folklore festivals, for which they rehearse many months. Young people use these occasions to socialize among peers.
FOLK ART, CRAFTS, AND HOBBIES
The Aymara are skilled weavers, a tradition dating back to their pre-Inca origins. Many ethnologists believe that the textiles of the Andes are among the most highly developed and complex textile traditions in the world. The Aymara use a great many materials in their weaving, including cotton, as well as sheep, alpaca and llama wool. Additionally, the Aymara use totora reeds to make fishing boats, baskets, and related artifacts. Styles, patterns, and colors used in textile-weaving differ by region. Among the most sought-after textiles are those made in the town of Potolo. Potolo weavers emphasize zoomorphic designs that depict horses, llamas, and other animals.
The social problems faced by the Aymara stem from colonial times. European colonizers and their descendants have marginalized the Indians and exploited them constantly, putting them in the lower strata of the social scale. Beginning with the Spaniards, the Aymara culture (and, for that matter, of all Amerindians) has been stigmatized and forced to acculturate to the colonizers' imposed values and beliefs. In spite of all the efforts made during almost half a millennium to erase or extirpate their culture, however, the Aymara have preserved some of their indigenous traits, which unfortunately have maintained them on the fringes of a society sharply divided among classes. It has been only in the second half of the 20th century that there has been an openness to accept their heritage without derogatory connotations. After the MNR revolution of 1952 [see "Bolivians"], all Indians enjoy all the civil rights of every Bolivian. With their access to education, their participation in the life of the country is beginning to be more active, but there are still class and racial barriers to overcome before they can fully participate in the modern life of the country. Unfortunately, too many of the Aymara still remain in poverty in rural areas, forcing large numbers to migrate to the cities where life becomes even harder for them in many respects.
One of the pillars of Aymara culture is the concept of ayni (reciprocity and balance), which used to give married Aymara women independent rights to own land. Moreover, in Aymara tradition, the principle of parallel lines of descent in which men conceived themselves as descending from a line of men and women from a line of women, was one of the key rules ordering pre-Columbian Andean kinship. Within this system, the basic structural unit was the sibling pair, which also ordered political and religious relations in the Andes. In addition, within the kin group itself, the designation of authority was based on order of birth, with no distinction made in terms of gender. Therefore, the male-dominated structure that the Spanish brought to the Andes imposed a special burden on Aymara women.
Aymara women are a marginalized, poor, and deprived social group, with low education, high unemployment, extreme poverty, inequality, and social exclusion. They also lack knowledge in Spanish. Illiteracy among Aymara women is more than one third and maternal mortality, especially in certain rural areas of the highlands, reaches 887 per 100,000 live births, one of the highest in Latin America.
In addition, Aymara women struggle against social traditions, which are particularly hard to break. Women rear the children, keep the house running, often manage the family business, and are preponderant in streets and markets selling everything from vegetables to electronic products.
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Bouysse-Cassagne, Therese. La identidad Aymara: Aproximación histórica. La Paz, Bolivia: Hisbol, 1987.
Colque Fernández, Gonzalo. Visiones de desarrollo en comunidades aymaras: tradición y modernidad en tiempos de globalización. La Paz: Programa de Investigación Estratégica en Bolivia, 2003.
Crowther, Geoff. South American on a Shoestring. Hawthorn, Australia: Lonely Planet Publications, 1994.
La Barre, Weston. The Aymara Indians of the Lake Titicaca Plateau, Bolivia. Memasha, WI: American Anthropological Association, 1948.
Mamani Ramírez, Pablo. El rugir de las multitudes: la fuerza de los levantamientos indígenas en Bolivia/Qullasuyu. La Paz, Aruwiyiri: Ediciones Yachaywasi, 2004
Moss, Joyce, and George Wilson. Peoples of the World: Latin Americas. Detroit: Gale Research, 1989.
Reader, John. Man on Earth: A Celebration of Mankind. New York: Harper & Row, 1988.
Serulnikov, Sergio. Subverting Colonial Authority: Challenges to Spanish Rule in Eighteenth-Century Southern Andes. Durham: Duke University Press, 2003.
—revised by C. Vergara.
Identification. The name "Aymara" is of unknown origin. Historically, the Aymara referred to themselves as "Jaqi," meaning "human beings," or as "Colla." This term "was extended loosely by early Spanish chroniclers to include all the Aymara-speaking tribes of the 'Collao' or Collasuyo division of the Inca empire" (La Barre 1948).
Location. The Aymara are presently concentrated on the altiplano, the Andean high plateau, a geographical zone of approximately 170,000 square kilometers at a medium elevation of 4,000 meters above sea level. Although located in the center of the South American continent, the altiplano has far from a tropical climate, owing to the extreme elevation—surrounding mountains range up to 7,000 meters. The temperature varies more between night and day than between seasons. Normally the summer season (November to March) has daily rainfalls, the winter (May through September) a complete drought. The population is mainly spread around Lake Titicaca in Peru and Bolivia, extending into southern Bolivia, southern Peru, and northern Chile. There is evidence that in the pre-Inca period Aymara speakers were geographically spread over a substantially larger area.
Demography. In 1950 the Aymara population was estimated to be between 600,000 and 900,000, with the majority living in Bolivia. More recent estimates claim that the Aymara number between two and three million, of which around half a million live in Peru (approximately 2.3 percent of the Peruvian population). The Bolivian Aymara are about 30 percent of the population. For these reasons, the Aymara tend to be linked more closely to the history of Bolivia than to that of Peru.
Linguistic Affiliation. The Aymara language, one of the three most widely spoken (with Quechua and Guaraní) Indian language in South America, belongs to the Andean-Equatorial Language Family, more specifically to the Jaqi Language Group. There are three Jaqi languages: Jaqaru and Kawki, spoken only in Peru, and Aymara, spoken primarily in Bolivia and Peru.
History and Cultural Relations
The Aymara are considered descendants of some of the earliest inhabitants of the continent and possible founders of the so-called Tiahuanaco (Tiwanaku) high culture, estimated to have existed from between 500 and 200 b.c. to around a.d. 1000. For unknown reasons this culture suddenly collapsed in the thirteenth century (i.e., before the Inca Empire reached its peak toward the end of the fifteenth century). By then most people of the Andes, from Equador into Chile, were linked in a tightly controlled economic and political system in which the Quechua language of the Incas dominated. But the Aymara, as an exception from Inca practice, were allowed to retain their own language. This contributed to the still-persisting cultural and social separation of the Aymara.
After the Spanish Conquest in 1533 the Aymara shared the fate of most South American peoples-centuries of suppression. In what later became Bolivia, the Spaniards started the extraction of metals, mainly silver, at the price of ruthless exploitation of the Indian population, which was forced to work in the mines. The eighteenth century was a period of great unrest among various Indian groups in what was then called Upper Peru (part of Bolivia today). Lacking coordination, these uprisings had little effect upon the lives of the Aymara in the area. Nor did the fifteen-year long war of independence, which in 1825 resulted in the proclamation of the Republic of Bolivia.
The status of the Bolivian Aymara remained virtually unchanged until the revolution in 1952, which led to economic and social reforms such as universal suffrage and land reform. A continuing stormy political scene has, however, resulted in an underdeveloped economy, poor communication, and social problems; these conditions primarily affect the Indian population, whose situation is not likely to change rapidly. Culturally related peoples are the Quechua, the Uru, and the Chipaya. Their languages are unrelated (in spite of the common belief to the contrary), but there has been extensive mutual linguistic and cultural borrowing.
As the Aymara switched to pastoralism and agriculture, they settled in small clusters throughout the altiplano area. Several millennia later, during the colonial period, two types of highland communities came into existence in Bolivia: the hacienda-dominated community (inhabited by colonos ) and the marginal, freeholding community (inhabited by comunarios ), which contributed to the development of diverging settlement patterns. Homesteads in the comunario community are often widely dispersed, whereas in the colono community living quarters are mostly built in close-knit clusters. The buildings of each unit (for an extended family or some related families) are surrounded with a wall. Aymara frequently own dwellings in more than one location because of their traditional engagement (landholdings, trade, or barter) in different places. In the 1950s, when the Aymara began substantial migration to urban centers, they kept their settlement pattern, including having a wall around the dwelling of a nuclear or extended family.
Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Early Aymara began practicing animal husbandry and subsistence agriculture possibly around 2500 b.c. Climate, elevation, and poor soil limit the range of plants and food crops that can be cultivated. The Aymara adapted to their harsh environment by engaging in the domestication of animals and crops, some of which are still unique to the Andes (the Andean cameloid, llama, and the native grain, quinoa) and others of which (e.g., potatoes and maize) have spread throughout the world. A method for food preservation was developed early: dehydration (freeze-drying) of the staple food, potatoes, and other Andean tubers. This allowed long-term storage, necessary in a region of seasonal production, as well as the accumulation of a surplus to free labor for nonsubsistence activities. The dramatic differences in elevation create substantial climatic variations in geographically close areas. As insurance against the failure of a single crop and to get access to a greater variety of products, the Aymara have developed a method of agricultural diversification: they keep land in different ecozones. This diversification technique is used also in commercial activities (e.g., trade and wage labor). Trade is by tradition dominated by women, who bring agricultural produce to central markets, where today most products are sold, not traded. Early patterns of seasonal migration (mainly by men) for wage labor have contributed to the engagement in the cash economy by most present-day Aymara. However, there are rural villagers still living mainly through subsistence agriculture.
Industrial Arts. Pottery making and weaving are performed by both men and women. Works of highly skilled architects and sculptors from the Tiahuanaco culture can still be seen at that site.
Trade. Despite lagging development of infrastructure and poor communications, Aymara men and women traditionally keep long-distance trading partners, which enables them to acquire produce from other ecological zones. In institutionalized reciprocal relationships, such as ayni (exchange of labor, goods, and services) and compadrazgo (godparenthood, coparenthood, ritual kinship), labor may be exchanged for food products or meals. Urban traders exchange, for example, salt, sultana coffee, rice, or vegetables grown at low elevation for several kinds of potatoes and dried beans with their rural partners.
Division of Labor. Labor is divided equally between married spouses (i.e., husbands and wives work the fields together, although they may have different tasks). But no task is so sex specific that the other cannot take it on. Among urban "Westernized" Aymara, however, the traditional labor cooperation seems to be vanishing.
Land Tenure. In early days a form of collective landownership was practiced by the members of an ayllu, a basic social, political, and geographical unit (see "Kinship"). Grazing land was used in common, whereas the agricultural land was rotated and distributed yearly among ayllu members according to the needs of each extended family. Only land on which the families had their houses was privately owned. As land became permanently divided and privately owned by separate families, the tradition of working in common-labor groups has been weakened.
Kin Groups and Descent. According to a common Andean bilateral kinship system, Aymara trace descent through both male and female ancestors within a certain number of generations, usually to the great-grandparents (t'unu ). It is unclear when this cognatic system developed, but ethnographers (e.g., Lambert 1977) at present agree that earlier reports of a patrilineal system are the results of misinterpretations and that the pre-Hispanic kinship system rather was parallel, or dual, in its nature (Collins 1981). Kin groups were traditionally organized into an ayllu, described as a "subtribe," "one or several extended families," "extended lineages," "a unit within which certain bonds of kinship are recognized" or, according to Zuidema (1977), as "any social or political group with a boundary separating it from the outside." The ayllus and the current corresponding comunidades display strong tendencies of endogamy. A high rate of endogamy between urban migrants and members from their community of origin is reported.
Kinship Terminology. According to Lounsbury (1964), the kinship system was a rarity of the Omaha type. This is based on Ludovico Bertonio's early-seventeenth-century Vocabulary. Today there is assimilation to a Spanish bilateral system, but with vestiges of the older system.
Marriage. Most marriages derive from the choice of the young couple but are regarded as an economic union with binding reciprocal obligations among three households: those of the parents of the groom, the parents of the bride, and the newlyweds. A marriage is entered through a series of stages and wedding ceremonies, earlier mistakenly apprehended as "trial marriages." Marriages are monogamous and divorce is fairly easy.
Domestic Unit. The basic unit is the nuclear family with extended family networks for cooperation. Nuclear families with separate households often live on the same premises as their extended kin. Virilocal or neolocal residence is typically practiced.
Inheritance. Inheritance is traditionally bilateral (i.e., males and females inherit property separately from their father and mother). The equal inheritance rules, legalized in Bolivia in 1953, have sometimes led to extreme splitting up of land, resulting in the bending of the rules in practice.
Socialization. Children are regarded as complete human beings and are brought up with guidance rather than with rebuke or force. They are treated with respect, and, although seldom excluded from any situation, they are taught to be quiet when grown-ups talk.
Social Organization. The idea of equality, embraced by all Aymara, is a component of most relationships in rural society. The social system is flexible, and on the lowest levels of the social structure, the family and the ayllu, individuals are interchangeable (i.e., men and women can change roles). Males and females are considered equal in status, decision making, and rights, as well as in inheritance, labor division, and cooperation.
Political Organization. In pre-Conquest time, when the Aymara dominated the Andean highlands, a number of Aymara-speaking "nations," divided into "kingdoms" or "chiefdoms," developed. An Andean type of endogamous moiety organization with stratification of ethnic groups (Aymara and Uru) has been reported (Murra 1968). The independence of these nations was lost as the Quechua-speaking Incas extended their influence, but on the local level little of Aymara life changed. Decision making in the traditional ayllu was of the consensus type. Leadership authority was executed by the jilaqata, chosen yearly among adult men according to a rotating system. In the new community organization, connected to the national governments, the headman is theoretically chosen by the subprefector in the provincial capital, but in practice he is often elected by his community members. He is merely the "foremost among equals," and actual decisions are made by the reunión (assembly), where consensus is still a goal. In August 1993 an Aymara, Victor Hugo Cárdenas, took office as vice president of Bolivia.
Social Control. The flexible and ideally egalitarian Aymara system has resulted in relatively few rules and taboos and consequently a low degree of social control. In case of personal conflict, the common forms of social control are used—gossip and ostracism (e.g., in the form of exclusion from dancing, drinking, and eating with the well-demarcated fiesta group).
Conflict. Individual and family disputes, often over land or inheritance, were settled by the jilaqata, who also arbitrated in inter-ayllu conflicts. In today's organization, conflicts are solved at assembly meetings, or if intractable, referred to central authorities. Physical arguments or regular fights usually occur only under the influence of alcohol. On the ayllu or village level the Aymara have a strong sense of collective identity and "community orientation" at times resulting in prejudice, mistrust, and suspicion toward "outsiders." Competition, mistrust, and conflict between other bonded units, such as family groups and village or community sections, is also not uncommon.
Religion and Expressive Culture
Religious Beliefs. The majority of the Aymara today are nominally Roman Catholic. In practice their religion is a syncretistic blend of Catholicism and indigenous religion, based on a parallelism, in which supernatural phenomena were classified similarly to natural ones. Such phenomena, as well as religious leaders, were ranked in vaguely hierarchical and relatively unstructured and flexible orders. Some indigenous rites are still practiced, mostly in addition to established Catholic ceremonies. Spirits, in the indigenous Aymara cognition, inhabit not heaven but surrounding high mountains, rivers, lakes, and so on, or rather, those sacred places are personified spirits.
Religious Practitioners. Intermediaries between the natural and supernatural spheres are several kinds of magicians such as yatiri (diviner) and laiqa and paqu (practitioners of black or white magic). The aim of their activities is to bring about a balance between human and natural phenomena. Magic is used (e.g., in courtship, at childbirth, to cure illness, at planting and harvest rituals, and in weather-controlling rites).
Ceremonies. Reciprocity, the basic and most salient feature of all Aymara social relations, is culturally institutionalized in several systems (e.g., those of ayni, compadrazgo, and fiesta). Ayni, compadrazgo, and the two types of fiestas (religious and life-cycle) are all surrounded by specific rules and ceremonies. Although there has been much debate over the origin, development, and meaning of these systems, it is evident that in the form they exist today, they serve to extend and maintain an individual's personal network and fulfill his or her occasional need to express group cohesion and feelings of cultural identity.
Arts. Performing arts in the form of band music and dancing are important parts of every ceremony and fiesta. Most common are brass instruments, completed with drums, Andean flutes (kena and sampoña ), and a minimandolin (charango ) made of armadillo hide.
Medicine. Illness is considered to be caused by both natural and supernatural phenomena and may be cured accordingly—with the help of medicine and/or a curer. Most medicines derive from plants; roots, leaves, or flowers, are administered as infusions or herbal teas. Animal parts and minerals are also used. Indigenous methods are applied along with Western medicines prescribed by clinical doctors or obtained at the drugstore.
Death and Afterlife. Formalized passage rites are staged for a deceased, in which food and drink are important elements. This series of rituals (extending over a period of three to ten years) includes mourning wake, funeral, cabo de ano (end of the mourning year), and yearly celebrations at Todos Santos (1-2 November). The souls of the departed are then believed to return to earth, where they must be treated properly (i.e., fed) so they will refrain from vengeance. For the interment, the common practice is to send a number of items along with the deceased, mostly clothing and food, for use during the difficult journey into the highlands, where the spirits dwell.
Albo, Xavier (1976). Esposos, suegros y padrinos entre los aymares. 2nd ed. La Paz: Centro de Investigación y Promoción del Campesinado.
Bolton, Ralph, and Enrique Mayer, eds. (1977). Andean Kinship and Marriage. American Anthropological Association, Special Publication 7. Washington, D.C.
Buechler, Hans C., and Judith-Marie Buechler (1971). The Bolivian Aymara. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.
Carter, William E., and Mauricio Mamani (1982). "Irpa Chico": Individuo y comunidad en la cultura aymara. La Paz: Librería-Editorial "Juventud."
Collins, Jane L. (1981). "Kinship and Seasonal Migration among the Aymara of Southern Peru: Human Adaptation to Energy Scarcity." Ph.D. dissertation, University of Florida.
Hardman, M. J., ed. (1981). The Aymara Language in Its Social and Cultural Context. Gainesville: University of Florida Press.
La Barre, Weston (1948). "The Aymara Indians of the Lake Titicaca Plateau, Bolivia." American Anthropological Association Memoirs 68:250. Washington, D.C.
Lambert, Bernd (1977). "Bilaterality in the Andes." In Andean Kinship and Marriage, edited by Ralph Bolton and Enrique Mayer, 1-27. American Anthropological Association, Special Publication 7. Washington, D.C.
Murra, John (1968). "An Aymara Kingdom in 1567." Ethnohistory 15:115-151.
Tschopic, Harry, Jr. (1946). "The Aymara." In Handbook of South American Indians, edited by Julian H. Steward. Vol. 2, The Andean Civilizations, 501-573. Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin 143. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution.
Zuidema, R. Tom (1977). "The Inca Kinship System: A New Theoretical Outlook." In Andean Kinship and Marriage, edited by Ralph Bolton and Enrique Mayer, 240281. American Anthropological Association, Special Publication 7. Washington, D.C.
POPULATION: About 2 million (Bolivia); 500,000 (Peru); 20,000 (Chile)
LANGUAGE: Aymara; Spanish
RELIGION: Roman Catholicism combined with indigenous beliefs; Seventh Day Adventist
1 • INTRODUCTION
The Aymara are the indigenous (native) people who live in the altiplano (high plains) of the Andes Mountains of Bolivia. Bolivia has the highest proportion of indigenous peoples of any country in South America. It is also the poorest country on the continent.
Bolivia was colonized by Spain. The Aymara faced great hardships under Spanish colonial rule. In 1570, the Spanish decreed that the natives would be forced to work in the rich silver mines on the altiplano. The city of Potosí was once the site of the richest silver mine in the world. Millions of Aymara laborers perished in the wretched conditions in the mines.
2 • LOCATION
The Aymara live on high-altitude plains in the Bolivian Andes, on the Lake Titicaca plateau near the border with Peru. The altiplano is at an elevation of 10,000 to 12,000 feet (3,000 to 3,700 meters) above sea level. Weather conditions are cold and harsh, and agriculture is difficult.
An ethnic group closely related to the Aymara lives among the Uru islands on Lake Titicaca. These communities live not on land but on islands that are made of floating reeds.
An estimated two million Aymara live in Bolivia, with five hundred thousand residing in Peru, and about twenty thousand in Chile. The Aymara are not confined to a defined territory (or reservation) in the Andes. Many live in the cities and participate fully in Western culture.
3 • LANGUAGE
The Aymara language, originally called jaqi aru (the language of the people), is still the major language in the Bolivian Andes and in southeastern Peru. In the rural areas, one finds that the Aymara language is predominant. In the cities and towns the Aymara are bilingual, speaking both Spanish and Aymara. Some are even trilingual—in Spanish, Aymara, and Quechua—in regions where the Incas predominate.
4 • FOLKLORE
Aymara mythology has many legends about the origin of things, such as the wind, hail, mountains, and lakes. The Aymara share with other ethnic groups some of the Andean myths of origin. In one of them, the god Tunupa is a creator of the universe. He is also the one that taught the people customs: farming, songs, weaving, the language each group had to speak, and the rules for a moral life.
5 • RELIGION
The Aymara believe in the power of spirits that live in mountains, in the sky, or in natural forces such as lightning. The strongest and most sacred of their deities is Pachamama, the Earth Goddess. She has the power to make the soil fertile and ensure a good crop.
Catholicism was introduced during the colonial period and was adopted by the Aymara, who attend Mass, celebrate baptisms, and follow the Catholic calendar of Christian events. But the content of their many religious festivals shows evidence of their traditional beliefs. For example, the Aymara make offerings to Mother Earth, in order to assure a good harvest or cure illnesses.
6 • MAJOR HOLIDAYS
The Aymara celebrate the same holidays as other Bolivians: the civic holidays such as Independence Day and the religious ones such as Christmas and Easter. Another important holiday is Día del Indio, on August 2, which commemorates their cultural heritage.
The Aymara also celebrate Carnival. Carnival is a festival held just before Lent begins. It is widely celebrated throughout South America. Dancing to drums and flutes accompanies a week-long celebration. Also important is the festival Alacistas, which features the God of Good Luck. Most households have a ceramic figure of the Good Luck spirit, known as Ekeko. This spirit is believed to bring prosperity and grant wishes. The doll is a round, plump figure, carrying miniature replicas of household goods such as cooking utensils and bags of food and money.
7 • RITES OF PASSAGE
An Aymara child is introduced gradually to the social and cultural traditions of the community. A significant event in the life of an Aymara child is the first haircut, known as rutucha. A baby's hair is allowed to grow until the child is able to walk and talk. At about two years of age, when it is unlikely that he or she will be stricken with the many childhood diseases in the Andes, the child's head is shaved bare.
8 • RELATIONSHIPS
An important feature of the Aymara culture is the social obligation to help other members of the community. The exchange of work and mutual aid play a basic role within an ayllu or community. Such exchanges occur when more work is required than a single family can provide. An Aymara peasant might ask a neighbor for help building a house, digging an irrigation ditch, or harvesting a field. In return, he or she is expected to pay back the favor by donating the same number of days' labor to the neighbor.
9 • LIVING CONDITIONS
Living conditions of the Aymara depend mainly on where they live and how much they have adopted the Western way of life. Many Aymaras reside in cities and live in modern houses or apartments. There are also large numbers of poor Aymaras in the cities who live in just one room. In rural areas, the construction of an Aymara house depends upon its location and the availability of materials. A typical Aymara house is a small oblong building made of adobe. Near the lake reeds are the primary building material. Thatched roofs are made of reeds and grasses.
The high altitude makes life in the altiplano very difficult. The decreased oxygen in the air can leave a person with soroche (altitude sickness), which causes headaches, fatigue, and nausea—and, sometimes, death. In order to adapt to life in the mountains, the Aymara have developed physical traits that enable them to survive. Most importantly, the Aymara and other mountain peoples have a greatly increased lung capacity.
10 • FAMILY LIFE
The central social unit of the Aymara is the extended family. Typically, a family will include parents, unmarried children, and grandparents in one house, or in a small cluster of houses. Large families with as many as seven or eight children are common.
There is a sharp division of labor within an Aymara household, but women's work is not necessarily seen as less valuable. Planting, in particular, is a women's job that is highly respected.
Women in Aymara society also have inheritance rights. Property owned by women will be passed down from mother to daughter. This ensures that not all land and property goes to the sons.
Marriage is a long process with many steps, such as inheritance feasts, a planting ceremony, and the building of the house. Divorce is accepted and is relatively simple.
11 • CLOTHING
Clothing styles vary greatly among the Aymara. Men in the cities wear regular Western clothes, and women wear their traditional polleras (skirts) made of fine materials, such as velvet and brocade. They wear embroidered shawls and bowler hats (some of which are made in Italy).
In the altiplano, the story is different. The strong cold winds require warm woolen clothing. Women wear long, homespun skirts and sweaters. The skirts are worn in layers. For festivals or important occasions, women wear as many as five or six skirts on top of each other. Traditional weaving techniques date back to pre-Inca times. Brightly colored shawls are used to strap babies to their mothers' backs or to carry loads of goods.
Aymara men in the altiplano wear long cotton trousers and woolen caps with ear flaps. In many regions, men also wear ponchos. Both sexes may wear sandals or shoes, but many go barefoot despite the cold.
12 • FOOD
In cities, the Aymara diet is varied, but it has one distinctive ingredient: aji, a hot pepper is used to season the dishes. In the countryside, potatoes and grains, such as quinoa, form the staple diet. Quinoa, which has become popular in U.S. health food stores, is a nutritious, high-protein grain. It has been grown in the Andes for centuries.
The extremes of temperature in the high Andes make it possible to freeze-dry and preserve potatoes naturally. The cold air at night freezes the moisture from the potato, while the sun during the day melts and evaporates it. After a week of lying outdoors, the potatoes are pounded. The result is chuño— small, rock-hard pieces of potato that can be stored for years.
Meats are also freeze-dried. A traditional dish is olluco con charqui—olluco is a small, potato-like tuber, which is cooked with charqui, dried llama meat. But since llamas are important for their wool and as packing animals, they are rarely eaten. Fish from Lake Titicaca or neighboring rivers is also an important part of the diet.
13 • EDUCATION
In Bolivia, primary school education is required until the age of fourteen. However, as in most developing countries, children of subsistence farmers are less likely to complete school. Children often have the responsibility of tending a herd or taking care of younger brothers and sisters. Boys are more likely to complete school than girls, who have more household tasks, even at a very young age.
14 • CULTURAL HERITAGE
The Aymara have a rich musical tradition. Although there is a clear Spanish influence, the main musical influences date back to the pre-Inca ancestors. Drums and flutes are featured at festivals and celebrations. Panpipes (zampoñas) and the pututu horn, made out of a hollowed-out cow's horn, are traditional instruments that are still played. Homemade violins and drums are also common.
Traditional dances have been passed down through generations. Many dances feature large, bright masks and costumes. Some dances represent and parody the Spanish colonizers. The "old man dance," for example, features a bent-over Spanish nobleman with a large top hat. The dancer imitates in a comic manner the gestures and mannerisms of old Spanish gentlemen.
15 • EMPLOYMENT
Many Aymara are subsistence farmers in the harsh, high-altitude environment. The altitude, cold nights, and poor soil greatly limit the types of crops that can be grown. The Aymara follow traditional patterns of agriculture. Some still use the terraced fields used by their ancestors before Christopher Columbus arrived in the New World. They also follow a careful pattern of crop rotation. The most important crop is the potato, which first grew in the Andes. Corn, quinoa, and barley are also important. Many families own land at different altitudes. This enables them to grow several different crops.
Tractors and even oxen teams are rare in the high Andes. Traditional agricultural implements, such as the foot plow, are still widely used. While the men do the plowing and digging, the sacred task of planting is reserved for women, since only they have the power to give life. This tradition is maintained in deference to Pachamama, the Earth Goddess.
The Aymara are also herders. They get both wool and meat from herds of llamas, alpacas, and sheep. A family may also supplement its grazing herd with cows, frogs, or chickens.
The growing tourist trade has increased the demand for the luxurious wool of the alpaca, and some people knit sweaters for the tourists. This has provided the Aymara with some badly needed cash.
Some Aymara also work as laborers in silver or tin mines. This work can be very dangerous.
Many Aymara have entered politics. They have founded a political party, Katarista, and they have elected Aymara senators and representatives to the Bolivian congress.
16 • SPORTS
There are no sports that are strictly Aymara. However, soccer is the Bolivian national sport and many Aymara participate in it.
17 • RECREATION
The Aymara now enjoy their own TV shows, both as viewers and as performers. Some Aymara musical groups have made recordings that are very popular. In the cities, Aymara are frequent moviegoers.
One of the favorite activities is dancing in folk festivals. Young people use these occasions to socialize.
18 • CRAFTS AND HOBBIES
The Aymara are skilled weavers, a tradition dating back to the time before the Incas. Many anthropologists believe that the textiles of the Andes are among the most highly developed and complex in the world. The Aymara use a great many materials in their weaving, including cotton, as well as wool from sheep, alpacas, and llamas. The Aymara also use totora reeds to make fishing boats, baskets, and other articles.
19 • SOCIAL PROBLEMS
The most significant social problems faced by the Aymara stem from colonial times. European colonizers and their descendants have treated the Aymara as insignificant, taking their land and resources and giving nothing in return. The decreased standard of living among the Aymara and the anger between groups have weakened the social structure of the region.
Only in the second half of the twentieth century has Bolivian society been open to accepting the Aymara heritage. In 1952 (almost five hundred years after Europeans arrived), the Aymara and other indigenous people were given some civil rights that every other Bolivian had had.
With access to education, the Aymara have begun participating more fully in the modern life of the country. There are still serious class and racial barriers, however, and unfortunately, many Aymara still remain in poverty in rural areas. Large numbers move to the cities, where life becomes even harder for them in many ways.
20 • BIBLIOGRAPHY
Blair, David Nelson. The Land and People of Bolivia. New York: J.B. Lippincott, 1990.
Cobb, Vicki. This Place Is High. New York: Walker, 1989.
La Barre, Weston. The Aymara Indians of the Lake Titicaca Plateau, Bolivia. Memasha, Wisc.: American Anthropological Association, 1948.
Moss, Joyce, and George Wilson. Peoples of the World: Latin Americas. Detroit: Gale Research, 1989.
Bolivia Web. [Online] Available http://www.boliviaweb.com/, 1998.
World Travel Guide. Bolivia. [Online] Available http://www.wtgonline.com/country/bo/gen.html, 1998.
Between approximately 1200 and 1500, at least twelve distinct Aymara-speaking kingdoms dominated the area of the Andean Altiplano (high plateau) between Cuzco in present-day Peru and Potosí in present-day Bolivia. The origins of the Aymara language are not clear, but linguist Alfredo Torero believes that it may have developed in the area of Huari (Wari) culture in the central highlands of Peru. Although the Aymara actually constituted one cultural and linguistic group, there was often fierce competition among them, and consequently the kingdoms were well fortified militarily.
The most basic social and economic unit among the Aymara was the extended family, which in turn belonged to larger groups known as ayllus. An ayllu is generally understood to be a group of people who hold land in common and who trace their origins to one spiritual or legendary ancestor.
Above the ayllu level Aymara society had a dualistic structure that divided human communities into complementary halves. Each kingdom, as well as each village or settlement, was composed of two moieties, or parcialidades: a superior one, usually called hanansaya, and one of inferior status known as hurinsaya. This political division reflected a conception of the universe based on the unity of halves, or opposites. This dualism was symbolized by the male/female relation, and features of the physical world (rocks, mountains, bodies of water) were often conceived of as either male or female.
Each Aymara kingdom had two kurakas, or chiefs, one for each parcialidad; and on the district and village levels there were usually also leaders for both hurinsaya and hanansaya. Kurakas were responsible for allocating lands to ayllu members, ensuring that the proper religious rites were performed, and periodically redistributing some of the community's wealth. In return for performing these functions, kurakas, who generally had access to considerably more land than did commoners, had their fields tilled by ayllu members and received various other types of labor service as well. This labor for the leaders was viewed as a form of reciprocity by the common people for the generosity the kurakas demonstrated in redistributing the society's surplus.
The anthropologist John Murra was among the first scholars to show how agricultural "archipelagos" were used by the Aymara in order to make the best of the Andean region's varied geography. In this "vertical" system, agricultural lands with different altitudes and ecologies were utilized to produce a variety of crops. Most Aymara communities had their primary settlements on the sides of highland valleys or on the altiplano, where they were able to graze herds of llamas and alpacas, exploit salt deposits, and grow potatoes and quinoa. Lands in lower valleys provided vegetables, maize, coca leaf, cotton, tropical fruits, and vegetables.
It was through their ayllus that families obtained products grown in lowland zones that were more than several hours' walk from their base communities. Ayllu-held lands in distant regions were farmed by agricultural colonists (mitimaes, llacturuna) who were sent by the highland leaders for this purpose. Most ethnohistorians believe that because of the system of agricultural colonies the Aymara economy was able to function without markets or a medium of exchange. Products from lowland areas most likely were redistributed to community members by the ayllu leaders as a form of largesse.
After about 1440, the Inca—a Quechua-speaking ethnic group based in the Cuzco area—began to expand southward and to incorporate the Aymara kingdoms into their state system. The Aymara responded in a variety of ways to the invasions. Kingdoms in the area of Lake Titicaca eventually rose in revolt against increasing Inca demands for land and labor. Further south, Aymara leaders seem to have more readily cooperated with the invaders in return for certain concessions. For instance, the kurakas of the Charcas, Caracaras, Chuis, and Chichas were feasted by the Inca leaders, showered with gifts, and made officers in their armies. In general, the main burdens of Inca rule probably fell on the common people, who now, in addition to working the lands of their own kurakas, also had to do the same for the Inca leaders and spiritual cults.
The Inca imperial approach of building on preexisting Andean social and political institutions, and the flexibility of the Aymara lords in cooperating with the new state, helped Aymara culture survive to experience the next invasion: that of the Spanish, which began in 1532. During the Conquest and Spanish colonial period Aymara people used a variety of strategies, ranging from revolt to alliances with the colonialists to skillful use of the colonial legal system, in order to survive domination and maintain fundamental aspects of their culture. Since political independence from Spain in 1825 the Aymara have continued as a distinct cultural and linguistic group despite attacks on their communal organizations and system of land tenure, the racism of the dominant mestizo society, and their economic exploitation as peasants and poorly paid workers.
According to the 2001 census, approximately one-third of the population of Bolivia continues to speak Aymara. Although throughout the nineteenth century and well into the twentieth most Aymara people were peasant farmers, now many are urban and have diverse occupations. There are Aymara industrial workers, truck drivers, business people, intellectuals, and professionals. The 2005 election of Evo Morales to the presidency, the Aymara leader of the Movement Toward Socialism / Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS), garnered international attention for both Bolivia and indigenous movements. Today Aymara political and cultural organizations have links with other Native American rights groups in Bolivia and other countries.
John V. Murra, "An Aymara Kingdom in 1567," in Ethnohistory 15, no. 2 (1968): 115-151, and Formaciones económicas y políticas del mundo andino (1975).
Nathan Wachtel, The Vision of the Vanquished (1977).
Thérèse Bouysse-Cassagne, "L'espace aymara: Urco et uma," in Annales, 33, nos. 5-6 (1978): 1057-1080.
Martha J. Hardman, ed., The Aymara Language in Its Social and Cultural Context (1981).
Franklin Pease, "The Formation of Tawantinsuyu: Mechanisms of Colonization and Relationship with Ethnic Groups," in The Inca and Aztec States, 1400–1800, edited by George A. Collier, Renato I. Rosaldo, and John D. Wirth (1982), pp. 172-198.
John V. Murra, "The Limits and Limitations of the 'Vertical Archipelago' in the Andes," in Andean Ecology and Civilization: An Interdisciplinary Perspective on Andean Ecological Complementarity, edited by Shozo Masuda, Izumi Shimada, and Craig Morris (1985).
Xavier Albo, ed., Raíces de América: El mundo Aymara (1988).
Ricardo Díaz, Evo: Rebeldía de la coca (2004).
Aymara (īmärä´), Native South Americans inhabiting the Lake Titicaca basin in Peru and Bolivia. The originators of the great culture represented by the ruins of Tiahuanaco were very likely Aymara speakers. Although subjugated by the Inca in the 15th cent. after a long struggle, the Aymara continue to dominate the region, with a population of over 2 million in the mid-1990s. The Aymara languages make up a separate unit; they are spoken in Peru and Bolivia in the Titicaca region. The Aymara, conquered (1538) by Hernando and Gonzalo Pizarro, retained their pastoral and agricultural culture. In general, social organization was, and still is, based on the patrilineal family unit. Contemporary Aymara and the related Quechua peasant culture is a blend of aboriginal, Spanish colonial, and modern elements.
See H. Osborne, Indians of the Andes, Aymaras and Quechuas (1952); J. Steward, ed., Handbook of South American Indians, Vol. II (1963); H. and J.-M. Buechler, The Bolivian Aymara (1971); A. L. Kolata, Valley of the Spirits (1996).